After the last-minute amendments of the Unitary Patent Regulation (UPR) by the European Council on 28/29 June, who suggested
that Articles 6 to 8 of the Regulation [...] to be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament be deleted
lead to a removal of this matter from the EU Parliament’s agenda and unleashed a wave of revulsion among members of the EU Parliament in general and those of its legal committee (JURI) in particular (see here and here), the direction in which today’s JURI meeting would go was not utterly hard to predict.
And in fact, today’s press release confirmed what could have been expected anyway:
The European Council’s move to change the draft law to create an EU patent would “infringe EU law” and make the rules “not effective at all“, Bernhard Rapkay (S&D, DE), who is responsible for the draft legislation, told the Legal Affairs Committee on Tuesday. Most MEPs strongly criticised the European Council’s move and agreed to resume the discussion in September.
Apparently, this opinion is backed by the Parliament’s legal service, assuming that deleting Articles 6 to 8 UPR would “affect the essence of the regulation” thus be incompatible with EU law.
As reported here and elsewhere [1, 2, 3], the European Council agreed on the EU Unitary Patent and a EU Unified Patent Court at last week’s Brussels EU summit after volatile negotiations – by ‘suggesting’ two significant amendments (see summit conclusion, page 2, item 3) as compared to what was know from the latest available draft text of the Unitary Patent Regulation dated 23 June 2011 (see here and here).
EU Court of Justice: The more severe one of those amendments that apparently was pushed through by UK Prime Minister David Cameron to please his eurosceptics allies at home, demands
that Articles 6 to 8 of the [Unitary Patent] Regulation [...] to be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament be deleted
essentially meaning that substantive EU patent law will not any more be subject to legal order of the Union highest court, the European Court of Justice (CJEU). I share my colleague’s view that this is nothing less than “an open declaration of deep mistrust, if not political warfare of significant parts of the UK conservatives against the CJEU and thus the European Union as a whole.
This move, however, could not escape the eyes of the European Parliament, which originally wanted to nod through this matter tomorrow (4 July 2012) whereas meanwhile the item was removed from the agenda under the harsh critics of rapporteurs Bernard Rapkay (S&D, DE) and Klaus-Heiner Lehne (EPP, DE): “scandalous breach of procedure“, “oriental bazaar” (did they read this item?), ”case would go straight to the European Court of Justice“. Due to the Council’s amendments, the first reading is thus rendered null and void.
It appears that the proudness of the Danish Presidency as well as the official cries of joy of e.g. EPO President Benoît Battistelli (“historic breakthrough“) and EU Commissioner Michel Barnier (“decisive step“) came far too early while stakeholders ask themselves if this mess could not have been prevented by a more transparent process, more cooperation with the potential system users, less political tactics, and less national egoisms and horse trading. It is depressive to say, but if the implementation of a reasonable EU patent system was the litmus test for Europe’s capacity for efficient policy-making, the conclusion can only be that the striking deficiencies of the EU’s political management appear to be insurmountable.
Articles 6 to 9 of the Unitary Patent Regulation relate to substantive patent law. They regulate the right to prevent direct and indirect use of the invention (Art. 6 and 7, respectively), the limitation of the effects of the ‘Unitary Patent‘ (Art. 8) and exhaustion of the rights conferred by the ‘Unitary Patent‘ (Art. 9).
As the question of which EU member state will receive the Central Division of the EU Unified Patent Court (see here, here, and here) is officially seen as the only remaining obstacle to the Unified Patent Court Agreement, the Unitary Patent Regulation already received green light from the EU Parliament’s legal committee (JURI) in late December (see press release) so that the EU Council already began to linguistically finalise the Regulation text in early January.
THE DISPUTE ON ARTICLES 6 TO 9
Even so, a strong and illustrious ‘opposition movement’ of legal professionals and their associations (e.g. EPLAW and Jochen Pagenberg, European Patent Judges and Sir Robin Jacob, Professor Krasser, CIPA), industry representatives (e.g. ICC, IP Federation), and a few politicians (e.g. JURI member Cecilia Wikström (SE, ALDE) [1, 2, 3] and UK IP Minister Baroness Wilcox) demanded Articles 6 to 8/9 to be removed from the Regulation to prevent substantive patent law from becoming subject to review by the European Court of Justice via referral questions according to Article 267 TFEU.
After months of intense debate in the EU Council and the EU Parliament’s Legal Affair’s Committee (JURI), the European Parliament was scheduled to have its fist plenary session on the EU Patent Package (Unitary Patent Regulation, Language Regime Regulation, Unified Patent Court Agreement) on coming Wednesday, 14 February 2012.
While Google Search still delivers an entry “Plenary sitting – European Parliament Tuesday, 14 February 2012 Draft agenda. 09:00 – 10:20 Debates. European patent. Creation of unitary patent protection.“, the final draft agenda now announces a Fisheries debate instead.
- Enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection, JURI/7/05848, Rapporteur: Bernhard Radkay (S&D).
- Enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection with regard to the applicable translation arrangements, JURI/7/05847, Rapporteur: Raffaele Baldassarre (PPE).
- Jurisdictional system for patent disputes, JURI/7/06168, Rapporteur: Klaus-Heiner Lehne (PPE).
Fitting into the parliamentary tradition of issuing celebrating press releases when it comes to the future EU patent system, like
yesterday’s post-vote press statement was titled
- EU patent gets Legal Affairs Committee green light (20 Dec 2011),
disclosing, besides the well-known mantras as to the beneficial effects of the new European patent system, the liberating message that
Legal Affairs Committee MEPs backed a political deal struck last 1 December between Parliament and Council negotiators on the so-called “EU patent package” [...]. If Parliament as a whole and the Council confirm the deal, a new EU patent will be created.
As reported earlier on this blog (see here), the EU Commission is giving high priority to implementing the Unitary Patent and related Unified Patent Court System, in fact, “the objective is to reach agreement on a new patent system by the end of the year” (see MEMO/11/643).
In one of our latest articles, we reported that European executive authorities are now, as the end of the year approaches, “rushing to set up the EU Unified Patent Court“. (see Document 17317/11). But also the legislative authorities in charge – the European Parliament and its Legal Affairs Committee “JURI” – are heavily involved, as has been reported on this blog either (see here or here).
However, as the Executive (i.e. the European Commission and Council) can only suggest a new or amended piece of law, a parliamentary process that may be required to put the law in force might be longish and troublesome - especially if a self-confident Parliament has to decide on a controversial and rarely used legal institution as enhanced cooperation in case of the implementation of the Unitary Patent. As the Unified Patent Court system will be implemented by international agreement between 25 EU member states (EU27 except Spain and Italy), the EU Parliament will not have to adopt a formal position on that issue. Nevertheless, Klaus-Heiner Lehne, Rapporteur of the JURI Committee came up with a Draft Report on a jurisdictional system for patent disputes (2011/2176 (INI)), as reported here.
To ensure that broad discussions and public comments would not endanger the ambitious time schedule for reaching an agreement, the three Rapporteurs of the the JURI Committee – Bernhard Rapkay (S&D, Germany), Raffaele Baldassarre (EPP, Italy), Klaus-Heiner Lehne (EPP, Germany) – have been equipped on 22 November 2011 with a mandate (see agenda, nos. 33, 34, 35) to negotiate the agreement on the Unitary Patent and the related Language Regime with the European Council in back rooms behind closed doors. (see e.g. press release as well as press reports  and ).
The k/s/n/h::law blog
Some of the patent attorneys of the KSNH law firm have joined their efforts to research what is going on in the various branches of IP law and practice in order to keep themselves, their clients as well as interested circles of the public up to date. This blog is intended to present results of such efforts to a wider public.
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- kelle on Germany: Copyright Protection More Easily Available For Works Of “Applied Arts”
- Time Limits & Deadlines in Draft UPCA RoP: Counting The Days - KSNH Law - Intangible.Me on Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA)
- Time Limits & Deadlines in Draft UPCA RoP: Counting The Days | ksnh::law on Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA)
- Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Cou... on Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA)
- European Commission Takes Next Step Towards Legalising Software Patents in Europe | Techrights on EU Commission publishes Proposal of amendend Brussels I Regulation for ensuring Enforcement of UPC Judgements
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